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Local News Articles

Smithville Electric System Planning Power Outage

April 20, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Smithville Electric System is planning a power outage Saturday morning which will affect all SES customers.

"In order to increase our system’s capacity and reliability Smithville Electric is planning a Power Outage for all customers beginning April 23rd at 1:00am and possibly extending through 4:00am Saturday morning," according to a prepared statement from Smithville Electric System.

"This outage time will allow our personnel to safely install a new larger transformer in our substation. Our plans are to keep our outage time to a minimum and could be less. We do regret any inconvenience this outage may cause".

Actions you may consider before this event:

·Shut down computers or provide battery backup

·Leave electric garage doors open or cars outside

·Notify alarm system companies of outage times

For more information you may contact the Smithville Electric office Mon- Fri 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m or the
after hours answering service 24 hrs a day @ 615 597 4735.

Portion of Dry Creek Road to be closed in June for Bridge Replacement at Pea Ridge

April 20, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Foster

A portion of a DeKalb County road will be closed for a little more than a month this summer due to bridge construction.

County Mayor Mike Foster reported to the county commission Monday night that the state wants to close Dry Creek Road in the Pea Ridge area tentatively from June 6th through July 15th while the work is in progress. "It's really going to adversely affect some people for a short period of time. They're (state) requesting to close Dry Creek Road in order to construct the north abutment of the new bridge right below Pea Ridge. The new abutment sets on the edge of Dry Creek Road which will require a drill rig be set up that will block the road. The wing wall closest to the existing bridge sets on the edge of the roadway. This will require an excavation approximately ten feet deep into the opening up of the roadway. It is impossible to keep traffic on this section of road while this work takes place. This is the upper bridge just before you get to Pea Ridge. Everybody from just this side of the bridge, the road will be cut this side of the old bridge. So that means that everybody up there, even Cave Hollow and everything above there, will be required to go around (detour) until this bridge is replaced. It will take about five weeks. They're going to build the abutment on the south side, southwest side, and the pier and then they're going to close the road and add in the pier on this side. While that's being done, it will be closed," said Foster.

TDOT has awarded a bid to Roads, LLC of Brentwood in the amount of $623, 963 to build a concrete I-Beam bridge there. The project includes grading, drainage, and paving. Construction on this project will begin this summer. The work must be completed on or before November 30th.

Road Supervisor Kenny Edge told WJLE that the project is to be funded with 80% federal funds and 20% local matching money, including 14% from the DeKalb County Highway Department budget (state aid) and 6% from the county general fund.

City Voters May Apply for Absentee Ballots

April 20, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Dennis Stanley

Voters may now apply for absentee ballots for the Smithville Municipal election through June 14th.

The city election day is Tuesday, June 21st. Three aldermen will be elected, each to serve a two year term beginning July 1st.

Candidates are incumbents Shawn Jacobs, Aaron Meeks, and W.J. (Dub) White and challengers Gayla Hendrix, Cordell Walker, and Danny Washer

Early voting will June 1st-16th in the basement courtroom of the courthouse from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays; and from 9:00 a.m. until noon on Saturdays.

According to Dennis Stanley, Administrator of Elections, the requirements for absentee voting are as follows:

Absentee Voting by Mail

To vote by mail, a registered voter must fall under one of the following categories:

1.The voter will be outside the county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day;

2.The voter or the voter's spouse is enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited college or university outside the county of registration;

3.The voter's licensed physician has filed a statement with the county election commission stating that, in the physician's judgment, the voter is medically unable to vote in person. The statement must be filed not less than five (5) days before the election and signed under the penalty
of perjury. The statement must be notarized;

4.The voter resides in a licensed facility providing relatively permanent domiciliary care, other than a penal institution, outside the voter's county of residence;

5.The voter will be unable to vote in person due to service as a juror for a federal or state court;

6.The voter is sixty-five (65) years of age or older;

7.The voter has a physical disability and an inaccessible polling place;

8.The voter is hospitalized, ill, or physically disabled and because of such condition, cannot vote in person;

9.The voter is a caretaker of a person who is hospitalized, ill, or disabled;

10.The voter is a candidate for office in the election;

11.The voter serves as an election day official or as a member or employee of the election commission;

12.The voter's observance of a religious holiday prevents him or her from voting in person during the early voting period and on election day;

13.The voter possesses a valid commercial driver license and certifies that he or she will be working outside the state or county of registration during the early voting period and all day on election day. The request should contain the CDL number;

14.The voter is a member of the military or is an overseas citizen.

Requesting a Ballot

A registered voter may request a by-mail ballot by sending a written request to the DeKalb County Election Commission. The request must have the voter's signature. The request may be mailed or faxed to the county election commission office. Upon receipt of the request, the local
election commission will mail an application for ballot to the voter. The application must be mailed back to the election commission and a ballot will be mailed to the voter. However, if the voter wants to expedite the application process, the voter may place the following information in the request for ballot:

1.The name of the registered voter;

2.The address of the voter's residence;

3.The voter's social security number;

4.The address to mail the ballot outside the county (this applies only when the reason for voting by mail involves that the voter will be outside of the county during early voting and on election day);

5.The election the voter wishes to participate in. If the election involves a primary, the political party in which the voter wishes to participate;

6.The reason the voter wishes to vote absentee; and

7.The voter's signature. (If the voter is unable to sign his/her name, contact the Election Commission office for details.)

A request that contains this information will be treated and processed as an application for ballot, and a ballot will be mailed to the voter.

A registered voter may request an application for by-mail ballot no earlier than ninety (90) days before the election and no later than seven

(7) days before the election. In order to be counted the ballot must be received by election day.

The ballot must be returned by mail and not hand delivered.

DeKalb Election Commission Reorganizes

April 19, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
DeKalb Election Commission
Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker

The DeKalb County Election Commission has chosen its officers for the next two years.

The commission met in regular monthly session Tuesday afternoon at the courthouse to reorganize and to conduct other business.

Walteen Parker was named to her second term as chairman of the commission. The board's newest member, Harry Lasser was chosen as the secretary.

In other business, the commission reappointed Dennis Stanley as administrator of elections for the next two years. Stanley was the only applicant for the position. All five members voted in favor of Stanley's appointment.

The DeKalb County Election Commission members include Republicans Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Democratic members are Kenneth Moore and Harry Lasser.

(Pictured Above left to right: Barbara Vanatta, Kenneth Moore, Walteen Parker, Jim Dean, and Harry Lasser)

(Bottom photo- Dennis Stanley and Walteen Parker)

County Commission Kills Land Deal for School Board

April 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mark Willoughby addressing county commission
Jack Barton
Mike Foster

The DeKalb County Board of Education will not be able to purchase fifty two acres of property on the Allen Ferry Road for the future home of a new school.

The DeKalb County Commission Monday night, on a 7 to 7 tie vote, denied the school board's request for approval of a budget amendment in the amount of $374,000 from the school system's Basic Education Program Reserve (BEP) Funds to buy the property.

Eight yes votes were needed for passage.

County Mayor Mike Foster could have exercised his privilege of voting to break the tie but he chose not to do so.

Those voting in favor of granting the school board's request to approve the budget amendment were Mason Carter and Elmer Ellis, Jr of the first district, Bobby Joines of the second district, David McDowell of the fourth district, Jerry Adcock of the fifth district, Marshall Ferrell of the sixth district, and Jimmy Poss of the seventh district.

Those voting against the school system's request for the budget amendment were Jack Barton of the second district, Jerry Scott and Bradley Hendrix of the third district, Wayne Cantrell of the fourth district, John Green of the fifth district, Jeff Barnes of the sixth district, and Larry Summers of the seventh district.

Although the director of schools and school board members have not said definitely that the Allen Ferry Road property was intended for a new high school location, at least some county commissioners believe that was the intent of this proposed purchase.

Seventh district member Larry Summers, prior to casting his no vote, said he favored developing two community elementary schools elsewhere in Smithville, similar to DeKalb West School, rather than building a high school. "I'm for a building program but not this building program. I think the success of the west school is known. I think two community schools up here would kind of mimic the size and community involvement like the west school and would be better served so I vote no on this property," said Summers.

Later in his remarks to the commission, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby apparently took exception to Summers statement, saying that the job of the county commission is to authorize funding for school needs, not to decide where schools should be built. "I think some members of the county court have gotten their role and the school board's role confused or mixed up. I would ask that you let the school board do their job and respectfully county commissioners I would ask that you do your job of funding. I'm not mad. I'm disappointed because I'm talking about three thousand students. To the seven members of this court (who voted no), I think you've made a bad decision about what's best for the children of DeKalb County," said Willoughby

In response to Summers' suggestion about having two community schools in Smithville similar to the west school, Willoughby explained that the west school has approximately four hundred students in pre-kindergarten to eighth grade but that two similar schools in Smithville would each have about 857 students, which is more than the high school population. Willoughby questioned whether that would be a good move. "In the Smithville area where we have most of our population of students, if you have a school with more than eight hundred students the majority of the parents probably would not want kindergarten students and those in pre-school and first grade in the same building with seventh and eighth graders. Most progressive school systems are now going to a three tiered system, pre-k through 5 schools, 6th-8th grade schools, and 9th through 12th grade schools." Willoughby admitted though that studies have shown that many students experience an achievement gap when they have to move from one school building to another.

During his remarks, Willoughby read from a letter he sent to members of the county commission over the weekend making his final appeal for their approval. In the letter, Willoughby said " I am writing to request that you vote yes to allow the DeKalb County School System to amend the budget in order to purchase the property on Allen Ferry Road for a future school. This vote is not for any adult on the school board or any adult on the county commission. It is a vote for the children of DeKalb County. This has not been a rushed decision to purchase land for the children."

"As you may know the school system in 2008 formally made a request for funding once a suitable building site was located. We have now located a suitable building site which is centrally located and has been confirmed by professional engineers. These professionals make a career out of evaluating building sites. They have evaluated this site and determined that it is in the top 33% of building sites where schools are built on. After the evaluations of the property, it is proven to be an even better site than what I thought in the very beginning. The school system is not asking for any money. The school system is only asking to use money in the BEP reserves which is intended for only one time purchases. The BEP reserves are often used by school systems throughout the state of Tennessee for such purposes. It is no secret that the future of the children of DeKalb County will have to have a new school built soon. So I ask you to allow the school system to use the money that is already in reserves for this purpose," wrote Willoughby.

Some members of the county commission have expressed concerns about the potential costs of excavation and site preparation at this location. In response, Willoughby said " It would be hard to find property at a better price, which is centrally located, even considering excavation of the land and site preparation. If excavation (site preparation) of the property is what we heard $2.1 million, I don't believe that's out of line when you consider that takes in sewage, pumping station, roads to be built and things like that. This is not out of line with any major building project of a school," said Willoughby.

Second district member Jack Barton, who voted no on the request, stressed that his opposition is based on fiscal responsibility, not whether he supports the school system. "This is not a vote about the children. This is a vote about the fiscal responsibility of trying to find the best property for the school board to build on. Ours isn't to choose the schools they build, whether it be a K-8 or a high school, but without options we can't really know for sure, with myself not being an engineer and Mr. Willoughby not, that a higher (priced) piece of property on the front end doesn't equate to a better piece of property on the back end. I've had so many people approach me about please vote for the schools. I'm not against schools. I would vote to buy property that was fiscally prudent. My no vote was not against children or the future growth of the school system. I encourage the school board to come back to us with a five year plan, a ten year plan, and a fifteen year plan of where our growth rates are going and not from somebody trying to sell us a school but from somebody who can help us arrive at correct population figures. We need to pick property that's not only fiscally sound but also provides for expansion. I'm not against the school system, Mr. Willoughby, or the school board. I'm proud of our schools, but I want to make sure that the voting public knows that this is not just about children, it's about money. Whether its BEP reserves, state money or federal money, its somebody's tax money," said Barton.

Willoughby responded "Mr. Barton that's why I hired civil engineers and architects to make the evaluation. Their evaluation proved very positive on that site. I went to professionals and asked them how it needed to be evaluated. These people build schools all over the state of Tennessee and they tell us that this building site is in the top 33% of building sites".

County Mayor Foster suggested that the school board and county commission work toward ending their differences and find common ground. "My idea is we sit down and try to solve problems rather than create problems for each other. I fully understand that the school board's responsibility is to run the schools. I also understand that these fourteen men here (county commissioners) are the ones who decide how things are funded. We have got to be together. We don't need to be two separate entities arguing with each other. I think everybody here is concerned about the children. We don't need to be argumentative. We need to sit down and communicate. We all realize that a lot of our schools are old and need something done to them. I fully agree with you Mark (Willoughby) that its your (school board's) decision what schools to build, but the county commission will have to arrange funding for that (in the future) and we'll have to ask the taxpayers to probably increase their taxes by thirty, forty, or fifty percent. We all need to be on board with that. We can't do it if we're divided. It's time we sit down and try to solve those things," said Foster

In January, the school board voted unanimously to enter into a contract to buy this property, subject to approval by the county commission and a favorable site assessment study by the engineers.

The site, which is located near the existing DCHS/DeKalb Middle School campuses, belongs to Mark and Karen Adams, Melvin and LeeAnn Crips, and Billy Crips.

Under terms of the contract, the school system had a 90 day "due diligence" period to have an engineering firm conduct core drilling, inspections of the title to the property, the environment condition of the land, and other site assessments to determine whether the property is satisfactory for it's intended purposes.

Director of Schools Willoughby said that architects and engineers who conducted the site study found 44 usable acres suitable for a new school.

Appeal Dismissed, New Trial Date Set in Election Commission Lawsuit

April 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
John Harris, III

Former election administrators in DeKalb and several other Tennessee counties, claiming they were ousted in 2009 by GOP controlled county election commissions because of their political party affiliation, have lost an appeal challenging a recent court ruling over whether they can seek monetary damages against the election commissioners who didn't reappoint them.

Locally, the federal court lawsuit was filed by former election administrator Lisa Peterson who was not re-appointed in 2009 by the Republican majority of the local election commission. Another case involving the election commission, also filed by Peterson in DeKalb County Chancery Court is still pending.

In December, U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman found that the Republican election commissioners named in the lawsuit in DeKalb and other counties were not subject to liability for monetary damages sought, in their official capacities as "state actors". The plaintiff's claims, to the extent they sought declaratory and injunctive relief, remain pending. After Wiseman's ruling, attorneys for the former administrators or plaintiffs filed an appeal to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

According to John Harris, III of Nashville, an attorney for the DeKalb County Election Commission, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has now dismissed the appeal as premature, meaning that more proceedings must be held at the trial court level before an appeal can be considered at the appellate level. The dismissal of the appeal does not prohibit the parties from appealing any final judgment in the case. Meanwhile, Harris said a new trial date on the remaining issue in the case has been set for September, 2012. "The district court, in December, dismissed all of the monetary claims against the election commissioners based upon a concept called qualified immunity. Basically, that's a finding that there is no just basis to proceed on claims that these administrators were wrongfully terminated because the law prior to that point in time was unclear. The former administrators, who are the plaintiffs in the case, appealed that decision to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals which is a federal court sitting over Tennessee although its in Cincinnati. That court said we're going to reject the appeal because we believe that its premature. There needs to be further proceedings at the trial court before they would entertain it as an appellate matter. So the appeal in March was rejected by the (appellate) court in Cincinnati and that sends it back to the trial court level for further proceedings. Since it came back, the trial court has entered an order setting out various things that has to be done over the next year and a half. The case is now set for trial in September, 2012," said Harris.

With the appeal having been dismissed, Harris said the only significant remaining issue to be decided at the trial court level is the "injunctive relief" claim in the lawsuit and a jury trial date has been set in U.S. District Court for Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. in Nashville. "The main issue now is whether it is allowable under federal law to replace a public official with the authority and discretion that an administrator of elections had based only upon party affiliation. The court could find that this is okay because a person holding that position has sufficient political discretion in carrying out their job that party affiliation is relevant. It could easily do that here because of the fact that everybody who serves as a commissioner, either at the state or at the county level, is basically selected along party lines. Or the court could find that these are just ministerial jobs and there is no significance to party affiliation in making that selection. If the court finds that party affiliation is irrelevant, it could then issue an injunction telling future election commissions that they cannot consider party affiliation in selecting or releasing an existing administrator of elections. If it grants relief and puts down an order saying election commissions can't consider party affiliation then it also has the authority to award, under the federal statute, attorneys fees in favor of the plaintiffs and that's really the biggest issue from a short term perspective because if the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs on this declaratory aspect of the case, will it then award attorneys fees in favor of the plaintiffs. If so, the concern I think most counties should have is that an award of attorneys fees in this case, given the amount of time its going to take and the possibility of an appeal, could easily be hundreds of thousands of dollars. At this point, the court has ruled that there cannot be monetary damages for things like wrongful termination or back pay. But if you consider an award of attorneys fees damages then the attorneys fees award is still a possibility," said Harris.

Meanwhile, legislation has been filed in the Tennessee General Assembly that if approved would require terms of county administrators of elections to expire when the commission's term expires. It would also allow county election commissions to consider political party affiliation, knowledge and experience when hiring administrators

Republican members of the DeKalb County Election Commission are Walteen Parker, Barbara Vanatta, and Jim Dean. Democratic members are Harry Lasser and Kenneth Moore.

Ring Indicted for Child Abuse

April 18, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Kenneth Brian Ring
Matthew Gilles
Elizabeth D. Riley
Sharon Morton
Bratten Hale Cook, III
Samuel Wade Walker
Donna Sue Overall

A 26 year old Smithville man has been charged in a grand jury sealed indictment with child abuse.

The indictment against Kenneth Brian Ring of Foster Road, Apartments alleges that "On or about December 18th, Ring intentionally and knowingly did, other than by accidental means, treat a fifteen month old child, in such a manner as to inflict injury, constituting the offense of child abuse."

The case was presented to the April term of the grand jury by Detective Matt Holmes of the Smithville Police Department.

Ring's bond is $25,000 and he will be in court on May 20th.

Meanwhile, 25 year old Matthew Allen Gilles of Short Mountain Highway, Smithville is charged under a sealed indictment with sale and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance. His bond is $60,000 and he will be in court on May 20th.

Gilles' girlfriend, 20 year old Elizabeth D. Riley is charged with filing a false report for allegedly trying to keep officers from serving the warrant on Gilles. Her bond is $1,500 and she will be in court on April 21st.

According to Sheriff Patrick Ray, "We went to Gilles' home on Short Mountain Highway to execute the warrant. We could see Gilles through the window and knocked on the door to get him to come out. But Riley, who was also there, told officers that Gilles wasn't in the house and added that unless officers had a warrant, they were not going to be allowed to enter. She tried to shut the door on us but we went in and arrested him".

35 year old Sharon Morton of Readyville is charged under a sealed indictment with theft of property over $1,000. Her bond is $25,000 and she will be in court on May 20th.

Chief Mark Collins of the Alexandria Police Department said that Morton was working as a property manager for the Maplewood and Parkview apartment complexes in Alexandria which is owned by MACO Management Co, Inc . Chief Collins states that between November 2009 and September 2010 Morton took approximately $9,873 from approximately 10 tenants living at the properties . Chief Collins states that the money came from security deposits and rent which never got deposited to Maco. The case was investigated by Sergeant Chris Russell. Morton was booked in the DeKalb County Jail on April 15th.

Meanwhile, two people have been charged in connection with a recent theft.

Sheriff Ray said that 30 year old Bratten Hale Cook, III of East Bryant Street, Smithville is charged with theft of property over $1,000. Cook was also issued a citation for simple possession of a schedule II , III, IV, and VI controlled substance. His bond is $5,000 and he will be in court April 28th.

According to Sheriff Ray, at the time of his arrest Cook had in plain view at his residence a green leafy substance believed to be marijuana, eight xanax pills, half of a percocet pill, oxycontin, suboxone, and suboxone strips. Cook allegedly admitted that these items belonged to him.

Samuel Wade Walker of Jerry Walker Road, Smithville is charged with two counts of theft of property over $1,000 and one count of aggravated burglary. His bond totals $25,000 and he will be in court on April 28th.

According to Sheriff Ray, both Cook and Walker, who were arrested on Wednesday, April 13th, are charged with taking four shotguns from a residence on Maple Lane without the owners consent on January 1st. The stolen guns were then sold.

Meanwhile in a separate case, Walker is alleged to have committed an aggravated burglary of a residence on Cripps Lane with the intent to commit a theft on August 29th. Entry was made through a back door. He allegedly took four shotguns and several other items from the home with a total value of $5, 575.

41 year old Donna Sue Overall of McMinnville is charged with failure to appear. Her bond is $1,500. Her court date is set for May 20th.

Sheriff Ray reported that on Friday April 15th, Overall was supposed to report to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Department to serve a forty eight hour jail sentence but she failed to report until Sunday, April 17th at 6:08 p.m.

A Look at the Tennessee Legislature

April 17, 2011
State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver

The following is a state legislative update from State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver:

Voter Photo ID Passes House

Late in the week, we passed a major reform to our electoral system that calls for Tennesseans to present a valid photo ID in order to vote. Various public opinion polls from Tennessee show citizens overwhelmingly support the common sense measure.

The bill, HB 7, passed the House by a wide 57-35 margin. Numerous comments were made in support of the legislation. One of the bill’s Republican backers stated, “For years, our system has operated under the premise of ‘one person, one vote.’ This bill respects that premise and removes any doubt that is the principle guiding our electoral system.”

By requiring a simple photo ID, the legislation institutes a common sense reform that ensures every legitimate vote in Tennessee counts. “With the technology we have in today’s world,” noted another conservative legislator, “there is no excuse to allow someone’s legitimate vote to be cancelled out by a person who shouldn’t be voting in the first place.” The bill now moves to the Tennessee Senate for consideration.

Tenure Reform Becomes Law in Tennessee

During the mid-week, the Governor officially made the education tenure reform bill law by signing HB 2012. The legislation moves tenure for educators from three to five years and links the tenure privilege to revised performance evaluations. The law is part of an ambitious education agenda advanced by the Republican-controlled General Assembly to remake the face of education in Tennessee.

The core principles of these reform initiatives are promoting student achievement and encouraging teacher excellence throughout Tennessee. In the long-term, Republican leaders of the House believe these initiatives will lead to a better trained workforce for the State. “If Tennessee is going to become the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, then it is critical that we improve education because businesses are looking to compete with employees educated for the 21st century workplace,” said the Governor. The House Speaker added, “Our goal is to make sure our teachers are equipped with the best tools possible to educate Tennessee students. We want an effective teacher in front of every classroom, and we want those who are excelling to be rewarded. This proposal is absolutely key to education reform.”

"Study after study shows when our students have the highest quality teachers leading them they will reach their full potential,” said the House Majority Leader. “I'm proud to support the Governor's efforts to identify and protect the best educators in our schools. Ultimately, this law ensures our next generation will be better equipped to enter the workforce and make Tennessee a better place to live and raise a family.”

Economic Giant Officially Breaks Ground in Tennessee

Last week, Tennessee received additional good news as it seeks to brand itself as the number one destination for high quality jobs in the South. Wacker Chemical, a worldwide manufacturer of numerous products, hosted a groundbreaking at the location of its soon-to-open operations facility in Bradley County. The company announced it would invest $1.45 billion into the plant—the largest single private investment in the Chattanooga-area.

The company joins other corporate giants who have recently joined the growing number of top-tier companies to call the Volunteer State home like Volkswagen, Hemlock Semiconductor, Amazon, and others.

One GOP Representative from the area stated, “Bradley County and East Tennessee are leading the way back in our state from the depths of the Great Recession because of great projects like this new Wacker Chemie facility.” The Governor also stated his hope that bringing in a company like Wacker would promote further growth. Another conservative Representative for the area noted, “Wacker increased its investment in Bradley County, adding nearly a half-billion additional dollars and 150 more jobs to the originally planned 500 positions.”

Charter Schools Cap Lifted by House Committee

Legislation at the center of the General Assembly’s education reform package to remove the cap on charter schools passed the House Education Committee on Tuesday. The bill moved by a wide 12-5 margin and now heads to the House Finance Committee for consideration. Under current law, the number of charter schools is capped at 90 statewide. This bill would do away with the cap, while also allowing any student in a charter school's area to attend the school.

Proponents note that increasing the number of charter schools increases the access of Tennessee students to a high quality education. These education reforms moving through the Legislature prioritize student achievement – the standard by which all reforms should be judged. Conservative leaders say that, ultimately, this reform and others are really about job growth in Tennessee.

The Majority Caucus Chair stated, “A wider array of educational opportunities only strengthen our State’s ability to attract a more diverse collection of high-paying jobs for our citizens. We campaigned on high quality jobs last fall—higher standards in education will lead to just that. Check this off as yet another promise kept by our Republican Majority.”

Bills to Combat Illegal Immigration Moving Through House

After several hours of discussion in both subcommittee and full committee, Republicans moved three immigration bills out of State and Local Government Committee this week. The bills enact simple reforms that will address concerns over illegal immigration. The first bill will require all employers—both public and private—to submit the names and Social Security numbers of employees hired. The second piece of legislation asks for a verification to be made of a person’s lawful status and any person found to be an unlawful alien is prohibited from receiving taxpayer benefits, potentially saving the State millions of dollars. The final bill says in the course of a lawful stop, State and local law enforcement must determine the legal status of the individual in question.

Republicans contend that the inaction of the federal government has forced states to implement stringent illegal immigration measures. The bill’s sponsor said, “By taking a comprehensive approach that targets three distinct areas of the law, we can bring the reform demanded by so many of our citizens. I believe this plan will place Tennessee at the forefront of State efforts to combat illegal immigration and provide a blueprint for other States to follow.”

Having passed State and Local Government Committee, the bills now advance to several committees for further consideration.

New Requirements to Fight Meth Advancing

Strong legislation to stop the scourge of meth in Tennessee advanced in the House Health & Human Resources Committee this week. The bill, HB 1051, requires all pharmacies to log the sale of products made from pseudoephedrine into an electronic tracking system. Pseudoephedrine is the main component used by drug users to produce meth, a highly-addictive and destructive drug.

The electronic database is known as the National Precursor Log Exchange. Additionally, the legislation strengthens penalties for drug charges. An individual arrested for meth production in the presence of a child under 8 years old will be classified as a Class A felony while “smurfing” will now be classified a Class A misdemeanor should the bill pass. Smurfing is when several buyers are sent to multiple locations to by pseudoephedrine products.

The electronic database will not be funded by taxpayer dollars and, instead, will be paid for by the cold medicine manufacturers—an example of a strong relationship that can be forged when government works with the private sector.
In closing…
It is such and blessing and an honor to serve each and every one of you. Please do not hesitate to call on me anytime if I can ever be of assistance to you.

Buying a Boat? Make Sure It's Properly Registered

April 16, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Mike Clayborn

Now that spring has sprung many people will be spending lots of leisure time recreating on Center Hill lake.

If you've recently purchased a boat or planning to buy one, make sure you have the vessel properly registered.

Under state law, all mechanically powered vessels and all sailboats which are principally used in Tennessee must be registered. (Boats are not titled in Tennessee.) Mechanical propulsion includes electric trolling motors but does not include boats powered only by oars or paddles. Boats which require registration must be properly registered before using them upon any public water of Tennessee. Registration fees are determined by the length of the boat.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue requires that boats which have never been registered before must show certification that their sales tax was paid when purchased. The owner needs to have the appropriate County Clerk's office or boat dealer stamp the application verifying that the tax was paid. The registration form is then mailed to or taken to the address shown on the form for processing.

If a registered boat is being transferred from one individual to another, you must follow the same process as described for previously unregistered boats above. If a dealer is not involved, the county court clerk's office will require a notarized bill of sale from the individuals involved, according to DeKalb County Clerk Mike Clayborn. "We register boats just about every day. But what the Department of Revenue is doing now and what they have instructed us to do is that we must have a notarized bill of sale with the name and address of the seller in order to register a boat. The reason they do that is because on the information you have the TN number and the boat VIN number. They (state) run that and want to make sure that you're buying it from the person they have it registered to. It's a tax thing. Most of us know that our state is low on money. They are really getting to the place that anything which has taxes on it, they're watching. They want to make sure that everybody is paying their taxes, especially on boats. Right now, it's a big time of the year. Boats are being traded and being sold so anyone who is fixing to buy a boat, if somebody gives you the card make sure the name on that card and that bill of sale are the same person because if they're not, then you've got problems. If you have a bill of sale that is not notarized, it really doesn't mean anything. But whoever notarizes that bill of sale is declaring that they saw you sign that. This way you can't come back and say I didn't sign that because its been notarized. That's the reason they want the notarized bill of sale so there won't be any controversy about who signs the bill of sale," said Clayborn.

If you should violate the boater registration laws in regard to the payment of sales tax, you are subject to investigation by the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

Four and a half months ago, a former DeKalb County man, 54 year old Michael Gene Cantrell who now reportedly resides in Jamestown, was indicted by the grand jury here on three Class E felony counts of Sales Tax Evasion. The indictment alleged that between July 2003 and May 2007, Cantrell submitted false and fraudulent documents to the DeKalb County Clerk's Office for the purpose of registering two vehicles and a boat. The Special Investigations Section of the Tennessee Department of Revenue conducted the investigation that led to the arrest of Cantrell. The case is still pending.

Time for Dogs and Cats to Receive Rabies Vaccinations

April 16, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page

Spring and summer mean having fun in the sun and enjoying many outdoor activities. Keeping your family safe is also important. The Tennessee Department of Health reminds Tennesseans that preventing exposure of people and their pets to the rabies virus is a priority, especially during this time of year.

Keep vaccinations up-to-date for all dogs and cats, as required by Tennessee law and local ordinances. Owners are urged to have their dogs (3 months of age or older) and cats (6 months of age or older) vaccinated. Store purchased vaccines are not legally acceptable.

Vaccination clinics will be held today, Saturday, April 16th from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. at the Liberty Community Center, at the Alexandria Parking Lot, and at the DeKalb Middle School Parking Lot. A fee of $7.00 will be charged for each innoculation.

For more information contact an Environmental Health Specialist at the DeKalb County Health Department at 597-7599.

Humans can be exposed to rabies when attempting to assist, feed or handle wild animals. If a wild or domestic animal is seen as ill or acting strangely, it should be reported to your local animal control agency. Bats in particular should not be handled. If a bat is found inside, in a swimming pool, or brought home by your pets, use precautions and consult your local health department.

Rabies is a deadly virus transmitted through the saliva of an infected animal. Rabies infection occurs primarily in wildlife in Tennessee, but it can be transmitted to any mammal, including humans and family pets. Bites are the most common means of transmission; contact with saliva from an infected animal can also be a concern.

Citizens can take the following actions to help prevent the spread of rabies:

Keep your pets under direct supervision so they do not come into contact with wild animals. If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately.

Keep children away from any wild or dead animals. Educate them not to touch or attempt to pick up, feed or handle any wild or unfamiliar domestic animals, especially those that are or appear to be sick or injured.

Do not disturb bats. Instead, consult your local health department or animal control agency for assistance in dealing with potential exposure to bats.

For more information or assistance with a potential rabies exposure, call your local health department or the Tennessee Department of Health emergency line at 615-741-7247.

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